Brown-Quinn and Another v Equity Syndicate Management Limited and Motorplus Ltd and Ors 2011 EWHC 2661 (Comm)

Clients of Webster Dixon LLP had various claims against other parties for which they wanted to bring proceedings with the benefit of their before the event insurance.  The issue before the court concerned the right of a client to instruct a non-panel firm or the transfer of their case to a non-panel firm.  The position taken by insurers was that in both types of cases they were entitled to insist that if an insured did not which to instruct a panel’s solicitors any other solicitor of the insured’s choice must not charge more than the rates prescribed by the terms of appointment for panel solicitors which was an hourly rate of £125.00 per hour.  In each case there was a dispute about the rate and the insurers informed the firm that they would not agree to their acting for all the claimants.  The firm continued to act and the insurers refused to agree to what the firm considered to be reasonable rates.   

The High Court on 21 October declared that the insurers were not entitled to decline to accept the insured’s choice of solicitor under the policy.  Their hourly rates would be assessed pursuant to the Civil Procedure Rules Part 48.  Insurers were given leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, provided their grounds are lodged by no later than 23 November 2011.

Key point: The case raises the important issue for the profession of freedom of choice for clients under a legal expenses insurance policy.